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Christians Should Put Up or Shut Up
When the Arkansas Supreme court struck down a voter-approved initiative that banned co-habitating straight and gay couples from adopting orphaned children, the Christian community predictably erupted.
Byron Babione of the Alliance Defense Fund, a coalition of Christian lawyers, attributed the April ruling to a “political movement afoot to undermine and destroy marriage.” Baptist Press, the publications arm of the Southern Baptist Convention,
ran an article
that quoted Babione as saying the ruling reflected “a campaign to place adult wants and desires over the best interests of children."
On one hand, these comments aren’t surprising. Conservative evangelicals have decried “the anti-family gay agenda” for decades. On the other, they underscore the way many Christians denounce a social problem that they have no plan for solving.
And the problem here is not ultimately gays adopting — the prevention of which, I believe, was the impetus behind the Arkansas initiative and behind adoption restrictions in various other states. The problem is a global orphan crisis involving tens of millions of children.
In the United States, there are approximately 116,000 foster children waiting to be adopted. That means a judge has either severed the rights of the original parents or the parents have voluntarily signed their children over to the government.
To put this into perspective, we might compare the number of American orphans to the purported 16 million Southern Baptists who attend more than 42,000 churches nationwide. Quick math reveals that there are roughly 138 Southern Baptists for every child in the American foster care system waiting to be adopted. To say it another way, this single denomination has an enormous opportunity to eradicate the orphan crisis in America.
If you’ve spent any time in church, you’ve probably heard a sermon on Noah or Moses or David. But how many sermons have you heard on the biblical mandate to care for orphans?
When was the last time you heard your pastor declare, “if you choose to adopt a child we will stand with you. We will provide respite care, financial help and do everything possible to meet the needs of that child?”
Southern Baptists, Presbyterians, Methodists, Catholics — the Christian Church — can provide safe, loving, permanent homes for these kids. Our faith dictates that we fight for a better way in both words and deeds.
When Jesus asked Peter if he loved him, and Peter responded yes, Jesus didn’t tell him to picket the wolves. He told Peter to feed and tend his sheep.
Some churches and Christian groups are stepping up. Focus on the Family launched a
Wait No More initiative
in Colorado in 2008, forming partnerships between local churches, adoption agencies and the government in order to encourage families to adopt through the foster care system. As a result, the number of Colorado orphans waiting for a family has been cut in half.
Christianity Today ran a 2010 report headlined
“Adoption is Everywhere,
” illustrating the trend among churches and Christians who are giving “attention to orphans, adoption, the fatherless, and so on.”
Despite such efforts, the American orphan crisis remains. Too many churches still find it easier to stand behind a megaphone decrying the morality of laws than to stand beside a child in need.
Thousands of orphaned children in America need grandmas and grandpas, embarrassing uncles and crazy aunts. They need someone to teach them to fly a kite and throw a ball and read a book and tie their shoes. They need someone to call mom and dad.
In fairness, adopting a child is not easy and many of these children face difficult adjustments once they’re adopted. They have experienced pain, loss, hurt, confusion and misplaced trust. They have endured physical, emotional and sexual abuse — things most of us don’t even want to imagine.
In 2008, when my wife and I adopted through Bethany Christian Services, the organization educated us on the possible challenges of adopting a child. They informed us that even though our daughter was a baby when we brought her home, she would eventually ask tough questions, as would our friends and family.
But my wife and I know our faith demands action and that sometimes action takes us out of our comfort zone.
As a father of three — two biological children and an adopted child — and a host to a number of children that have needed a temporary home I can tell you these kids need less arguing over who should and should not be allowed to adopt and more families stepping up and saying, “we will adopt.”
It is time Christians decide to either step up or shut up. If a Christian group wants to wade into the discussion over who should adopt, it needs to put its money and manpower where its mouth is.
That means not only challenging families and churches to adopt from foster care (which costs virtually nothing financially) but also to adopt children resulting from unplanned pregnancies, children with special needs and children of mixed race or minority ethnicity.
If Christians’ only desire is to fight the culture wars and score political points, then they should continue to lean on empty rhetoric. But if they truly care about the family and the Bible, they’ll begin caring for children who desperately need a home.
National Adoption Month
. What is one way that you can take action in your church on behalf of the orphans?
What keeps you from considering adopting a child or becoming a foster parent?
Editor's Note: This piece was originally posted on
CNN's Belief Blog
Why isn't Bethany being recognized as an example of Christians stepping up? They are a Christian organization.
I would love to hear from our church pulpit a message on this topic along with a willingness to rally around and support the adopting parent members. Wow, that would be a courageous yet powerful message.
I do not accept the argument that I cannot oppose something unless I am willing to take on the responsibility. The solution is not the church becoming the dumping ground for every child abandon by their irresponsible parents. I am not saying that adopting child is not a good thing. If you feel called to do that, then by all means do that. However, when someone says I cannot oppose abortion unless I am willing to provide for the child, I reject the whole premise. Why should I be responsible for someone's irresponsibility?
Better we go back to children's homes than allow homosexual couples to foster and/or adopt children. I would even go as far to say that a good group home for kids is better than many foster homes I know. There are many solutions to this social problem that do not enable others to continue in irresponsible behaviors.
Dumping ground? "Why should I be responsible for someone's irresponsibility?" I think you're missing the entire point. Which is really just about the heart of Christianity. Nobody's saying YOU need to become a foster parent or adopt. It's about thinking differently--and as a community--about how we can bring change to the world instead of just focusing on pointing out what we think is wrong with it and then doing nothing about it.
And last time I checked, there isn't such a demand for adopting and fostering kids that more people are actually abandoning them (or giving them up as an alternative to abortion). How on earth is there logic to saying that taking in orphans is enabling "irresponsible behaviors"?
Honestly, your post seems to clearly illustrate the problem.
I don't entirely agree with this article. Catholic adoption services have been "stepping up" for many, many years, running adoption agencies, orphanages, and providing food and housing and physical & spiritual support to unwed mothers.
But they are now being forced to close in some areas because they won't adopt to gay couples.
Consider this, please: Send this article to all the leaders that you mentioned (ADF, Southern Baptist Convention) and ask them to consider partnering with Focus on the Family in adopting orphans. Perhaps Christianity Today will also publish this article?
To say the church, or any place, is a "dumping ground" for children is so disturbing it just makes my stomach sink. Realize by saying that, they are essentialy reduced to garbage.
And yes, we are to be "responsible" for other peoples irresponsablility. It's what Christ called us to do. As Christians, our job here on earth to step into that gap, or any area we see need, again and again and again until His return. If it would be good to look at this as a privelege to do his work rather than a chore. It seems like the least we can do considering all He did for us.
The heart of Christianity is also standing up for the Truth. The premise of the article is that the Church needs to "shut up" on moral issues unless WE are willing to accept the responsiblity for these orphans. It is this flawed logic I was correcting.
I greatly respect those who provide foster care and/or adopt unwanted children. I know firsthand the difficulties they experience. I would guess that most of the good foster care homes are people of faith, and not in it for money. To say that WE, as the church, are "doing nothing about it" is simply incorrect.
We need to change to the world. This is done through the transforming power of the gospel. We also need to stand up for what is right and moral. We also need to love and help the unloved and rejected. My question is this. What happens after we adopt all 116,000 kids and next year these 100,000 more? Solving the problem requires dealing with the real cause.
My intention was not to reduce children to "garbage", but state the reality of our present society. I respectfully disagree your statement that we, as Christians, "are to be 'responsible' for other peoples irresponsablility". This is NOT what Christ called us to do.
We are called to bring people into a saved relationship with God through Jesus Christ. This may, at times, require us to provide assistance. However, we do not have the resources "to step into that gap, or any area we see need". Adopting a child is expensive to do. Dealing with the government is confusing and time consuming. Unwanted children is just one social issue. Should we also pay everyone's unwatered mortgage? How about we pay for their healthcare as well?
And while I am spending my time and resources on these children, who cares for my children, my wife, and preaches to lost the love of God? Remember Jesus did not feed every hungry person or heal every ill individual. He did fulfill His mission to provide everyone the means to be saved.
I love the idea.
BUT PLEASE: don't tell your kids that you adopted them because Jesus told you to.
To put it bluntly...I think you've got it wrong, bro.
Our tendency throughout Christendom at large seems to be to want to separate what you put as "preaching to the lost the love of God" and actually BEING the love of God. The problem with that is that the two are absolutely inseparable. If we love and care for orphans (in this example), but never share the good news of the kingdom with anyone, we're no different from good-willed atheists. However, if we only preach the good news, and don't love and care for orphans, our lives are absolutely contradicting our message.
I think this is a major question that we've got to answer: As Christians, how do we bring about change in the world? Is it by preaching the Christian ethic and working for legislation in an attempt to force the world to adhere to our ethic, or is it by presenting an alternative way of life; manifesting and living out the realities of the kingdom of heaven here on earth (while still sharing the truth and preaching the good news)? I tend to think it's the latter.
Here's an incredible article by Stanley Hauerwas that has shaped a lot of my views on topics like these:
It deals primarily with abortion, but it's very thought-provoking. I highly recommend it to anyone.
"Why should I be responsible for someone's irresponsibility?" That's exactly what Jesus did for us. And this is why we need to look for irresponsible people and take responsibility for them. Until you're actually doing it you aren't being Christlike . . . and you can't truly understand the Gospel.
Hey Larry, I appreciate your point but I think even that doesn't go far enough. What if God is not telling us to care for the orphans, widows, and prisoners because they are sad and pathetic? What if he's really being strategic about how his church grows and his people become sanctified?
Until you've given something you worked for to someone who doesn't deserve it or can't repay it and might even waste it you haven't experienced grace the way God experiences it towards us. We waste his gift of grace every day as we contiinue in our rebelliousness.
But caring for the poor lets us experience what he experiences on a cognitive level. It lets us grow in love because we truly come to understand how WE are loved. If people change and social problems are solved then fine. But God is just as invested in fixing Michael's way of thinking as he is in getting kids adopted. People like Michael aren't the obsticle to God - they are the prize.
So it isn't about balancing two different sides of the faith it's about coming to understand experientially what you affirm intellectually. This is what it means when the Bible says faith without works is dead.
I think you should recognize the spearheading that Focus is doing on this issue. They've had incredible results in cities across the country. They come to Arizona in February (the hometown of Alliance Defense Fund), and you should know that Christians involved in the political world there are the one's forcing this issue.
Check it out:
If you want people to act, give them a place to go.
The work Focus is doing seems incredible and is mentioned in the article. Thanks for providing the link so we can learn more.
From the article:
"Focus on the Family launched a Wait No More initiative in Colorado in 2008, forming partnerships between local churches, adoption agencies and the government in order to encourage families to adopt through the foster care system. As a result, the number of Colorado orphans waiting for a family has been cut in half."
Thanks for the link on Hauerwas. That was incredibly thoughtful and insightful.
I'm not sure what's more disturbing...the fact that the universal church is so woefully inept at loving and serving its neighbor OR that the premise set forth in this post would somehow pass as critical, well-reasoned thought. Come, Lord Jesus!
Where in my comments did I say that we should NOT "love and care for orphans"? What I said was that I disagreed with the premise that unless we are willing to adopt EVERY child abandon by irresponsible parents, we have no right to oppose gay couples fostering and/or adopting children.
I agree that the major question is how do we bring about change in the world? However I do not agree that we change the world by remaining silent in the face of immorality and simply spend our time and resources cleaning up the results of that immorality.
Christians who can and are called to adopt, SHOULD adopt. Children are important to God and need to be important to us as well. It is a false choice to say that we must ALL start adopting children before we can speak on any issues affecting children.
Is it by preaching the Christian ethic and working for legislation in an attempt to force the world to adhere to our ethic, or is it by presenting an alternative way of life; manifesting and living out the realities of the kingdom of heaven here on earth (while still sharing the truth and preaching the good news)? I tend to think it's the latter.
Here's an incredible article by Stanley Hauerwas that has shaped a lot of my views on topics like these:
It deals primarily with abortion, but it's very thought-provoking. I highly recommend it to anyone.
I think that the main reason the media and the public in general are not aware of the efforts of Chritians in this arena is that we are not in the habit of trumpeting our accomplishments. Most people are not aware that my wife and I are adoptive parents and I have been admonished many times to "put up or shut up" during political discussions with my liberal friends and aquaintences.
When I read the first post from Mike, I thought he was one of those "Sunday morning Christians" like my father encountered in his youth -- loving their brothers for and hour a week. Fortunately his later posts corrected that first impression.
All we can do as Christians is live and work as Jesus calls us to do and the world will see us and judge us by our works. Some in the world will choose to ignore our words and works and continue to believe that all Christians are racist bigots -- we can't do anything about that. Our reward is not of this world. Keep the faith and continue in His Way.
I am curious as to what you think needs fixing about my thinking. I have spent over three decades of my life "caring for the poor". I have experienced numerous times "on a cognitive level" what grace really means.
We are all "the prize" in the eyes of God. However, our priority is not solve all the social problems in the world. We do what we can do, but as I said before, we can still speak on social issues even when we are not going to solve the problem ourselves.
Our priority needs to SAVING LOST people. Jesus did not feed every hunger person or heal every ill or injured person. His mission was to save ALL mankind from eternal damnation. Along the way to the Cross, He did feed, heal, and even raised the dead, but never at the expense of His TRUE mission.
. It lets us grow in love because we truly come to understand how WE are loved. If people change and social problems are solved then fine. But God is just as invested in fixing Michael's way of thinking as he is in getting kids adopted. People like Michael aren't the obsticle to God - they are the prize.
Perhaps the church should do both.
I see very little evidence that Jesus or Paul were interested much in arguing about what non-Christians should or shouldn't be able to do in a non-Christian society.
I see in scripture -- as I see among Christians across Asia -- a focus on being the hands and feet of Jesus, establishing themselves and their churches as refuges for the poor and orphans, and pretty much regarding the debates over the sexual morals outside of the church to be largely irrelevant to their task.
Just try.... for one second.... to even IMAGINE Christ saying:
"why should I be responsible for someone's irresponsibility?"
It's almost laughable.
I would now like to imagine that God would have no problem saying "Foolish!" in response to that question/statement. I mean that in the most "righteously angry" way possible. I believe that God loves us deeply and sees so much good in us, but also sees and recognizes our foolishness. I mean... after a question like that, just imagine how God feels when He sees that we really must NOT understand what the entire story.... the life/death/resurrection... of Christ is all about.
Before you worry about any these "moral issues" or "flawed logic" which you seem to be so concerned about... it seems you could afford to take a good look at CHRIST, and what HE is all about. I mean, really reconsider your current perspective. That is, if you intend to follow Him and base any of your personal morals and/or logic on Him. Certainly, if you are going to make arguments/statements from the perspective of one who follows the way of Christ.
Please please please, ignore the article, the "topic", ignore the other "hot-topics" that you might be quick to get into, don't think about "time" and "resources", ignore your desire for perfect logic and some kind of moral code... and just think about the way of Christ. Think about how He took on the burdens of the whole world [responsibility?], think about how we are called to be like Him, to be little Christ's to the world around us. That DOES come with responsibility. Tons. [Maybe it doesn't mean every single Christ-follower adopting a child... I don't think anyone here suggested that anyway... I am sure that responsibility/sacrifice looks different for everyone] anyhow, you understand it is the PRINCIPLE that I am getting at here... this is responsibility we ought to be thrilled to take on!
Reflecting on the story of Christ, our image in Christ, and what "Christ-alive" looks like in our lives.... is so so important. All of the "moral" stuff and the "time" and "resources" and "logic" falls into place after that. However, if anybody is asking questions like "why should I be responsible for someone's irresponsibility?".... it seems hard to believe that there has been a personal encounter with Christ that has caused a person to look deeply at His character, and has cause a person to seriously reflect on His path. The path we are called to.
Please educate yourself before you speak about orphan care. Please atop calling them "unwanted" for starters. Group homes? Where's your evidence that they are better than foster homes? I'm not talking about anecdotal stories either. Also, where's your evidence that having homosexual parents does more damage than being in the foster system? Your gut feelings have no bearing on this argument.
Jesus told us to go make disciples of all nations. And yes, that is our primary role as Christians. But there are dozens of references about God's heart for the fatherless and our responsibility to them. Here's just one "Learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow. (Isaiah 1:17)."
The point of this article isn't to say that all Christians should adopt, but that our obligations to orphans are more than spouting off about who should be allowed to parent them. It's pointing out the hypocrisy of invalidating someone's right/ability to parent a child, leaving a child in foster care, and walking away as if that child is the better for it. The psychological damage done to kids in foster care is very real, the uncertainty and constant home-changing is deeply scarring. Pro-life doesn't stop at preventing abortions. Not every Christian can or should adopt, but there are so many other ways to care for the orphan. Help support foster families, volunteer at the children's shelters, mentor birth parents who are willing to parent but lack resources and education, and so many other things including financial support.
I grow weary of all the Christian talking heads who pay lip service but never invest any sweat equity. It isn't an all or nothing proposition either. You can care for your own kids and support your family WHILE caring for orphans. Bring the family along and allow everyone to grow in the compassion of Jesus.
Thank you so much for sharing this article. As a former foster child who lived in foster care from age 6-12 I am thankful that there are ppl trying to be a voice.
I agree with your article 100%. I believe it is the Christians calling to care for the orphans and it is so clear in Jame 1:27 "Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world".
Yes there are SOME Christian non profits that have stepped up but my question is why isnt the Christian body stepping up or Christian families? The call isnt too a non profit its to the church and do you know who the church is? Its you who all yourselves Christians. Nothing makes me more mad then when people do nothing. Maybe your not called to adopt or foster but its obvious Gods word says true religion is doing something.
My husband and I recently met all the qualifications of becoming foster parents and are in the middle of our process. It is hoped that in the next 4 months we will be approved. We have had numerous people say "you guys are too young or I dont think this is a good time for you". The reality is we will never feel totally ready or be in the perfect place in our lives. Its just how life is.
Thank you again for sharing this article. Id like to challenge every Christian who reads this to take a step of faith and if your willing to take that one take another consider fostering older children too!
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